Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
November 6, 2022
The Lord’s Prayer, Part 4
Matthew 6:7-13 and 4:3-4
At the beginning of worship:
We don’t like to be dependent on anyone other than ourselves or perhaps our spouses. It’s the American way. Pull yourselves up by our bootstraps, be independent. But there’s a problem with such thinking. It runs counter to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In all things, we are dependent on the providence of a loving God. And we live in an economy that demands we depend on others. Could you make your own car or build your own road? But today, I want us to consider God’s providence.
We owe where we are in life to God. Think about it, we could have just as easily been born in Ethiopia or Ukraine. We could have been born with a birth defect or learning disability, contracted a terrible disease at an early age, had horrific parents, or been run over by a truck. Some of you may have experienced such, but even then, God sticks with us. If God was not present, where would we be? When we consider the blessings received in this life, most of us should be humbled. Look for the blessings you have and be grateful.
Before the reading of scripture:
As we continue to look at Lord’s Prayer, let me say a little more about this prayer as it appears in Matthew’s gospel. First, the prayer is almost exactly in the center of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If you look at this sermon in the Greek, which runs three chapters in the gospel, there are 116 lines before the prayer and 114 after it.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus said a lot about prayer. Prayer is central to Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus begins this prayer saying, “So you should pray like this.” For some reason, the New Revised Standard Version (along with some others), leave out the “You,” but in the Greek, Matthew emphasizes it. Jesus says his followers are to pray like this (this is the You in this sentence). We’re not to pray like those in other faith traditions. Nor is prayer just about putting in an order for stuff. We are to pray like Jesus.
A second point is that this prayer is given as a model. It’s not the law. We don’t have to pray these words, exactly. Instead, this prayer becomes a template for our prayers. “You should pray likethis.”
The fourth petition
Today, we’re looking at the fourth petition of this prayer. Remember, the Lord’s prayer can be divided into two equal parts. The first three petitions praise God and reorients us toward God. The second three petitions are about our needs. The first is for our daily bread. Jesus is interested in our well-being. We ask for bread even before forgiveness, which indicates the importance of our physical health. The word bread, in how it is used here, implies more than something made with wheat (which should be good news for any of you who may be gluten intolerant).
While the word translated as bread literally means food, here it probably also refers to all we need to survive. And note, we ask for bread, not cake. We can be thankful when we’re given cake but should be satisfied with bread. We ask God to provide the basics, day in and day out.
I am again reading the prayer from Matthew’s gospel along with a short passage from Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4.
Read Matthew 6:9-13 and 4:3-4.
My work in a baker
I’ve shared with you before that I spent five years working in a wholesale bakery. I started there as a summer job, between my freshman and sophomore years of college. And I stayed on for a while. You know, there are plenty of jokes about working in the bakery. People say such things as “you must be rolling in the dough,” which isn’t the case literally or figuratively.
The bakery industry involves tough work in a difficult business climate. Because bread goes bad fast, it must arrive fresh in the stores almost every day. Once I became a supervisor, I was on call always unless I was on vacation.
Daily bread and the wholesale bakery
Give us our daily bread, we pray. This took on a whole new meaning when daily bread was being shipped out in a dozen tractor trailers each evening. Or, as happened once, when we ran out of flour, we kept looking down the railroad tracks for the train bringing the hopper car full of flour, that was a day late. Even in modern times, there is no guarantee of daily bread.
The bakery was never idle more than one day at a time. Starting around midnight on Saturday night and going through late afternoon Sunday, we’d bake what was shipped out late Sunday afternoon and evening. Smaller trucks took the bread to stores where it was fresh on the shelves early Monday morning. The plant was shut down on Tuesday and Saturday, which was when our deep cleaning occurred. And if you had a breakdown, you worked until you got the product out because if it wasn’t on the shelves, the customer would buy another brand.
Short shelf life for things on earth
This prayer, “give us our daily bread,” reminds us that things on earth have a short shelf-life. There is some debate over this petition as to if we’re asking for heavenly bread (as in the banquet in God’s kingdom) or bread to sustain our bodies on earth. Both are important, but I go with the later. If we don’t have food, we die. Surely, we are to store up our treasures in heaven, as Jesus recommends. Jesus acknowledges that there is a danger of accumulating even solid things on earth, which over time will rust away, or be consumed by moths, or stolen.
But Jesus also realizes that we need to eat. That’s why he fed the multitudes, a miracle found in all four of the gospels. And it’s also why the church’s mission from the beginning has been to feed people.
Jesus, the “Bread from Heaven” also fed peopl
Yes, Jesus says he’s the “bread of life,” which we find in John’s gospel. But Jesus never says that we don’t need anything else. He fed the 5,000 because they were hungry. But Jesus didn’t want people to depend on him for just physical bread when he could give so much more.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to turn a stone into bread, as we heard in our readings, he said one doesn’t not live by bread alone. Notice, he didn’t say, one does not live by bread! It goes without saying that we need food and the necessities of life.
Such gifts we ask daily from God; otherwise, by hoarding, we may begin to think that we’re in charge of our abundance and see no need for God. We’d be like the guy in the parable who wanted to build larger barns, only to die before he could enjoy their benefits.
Communal aspects of bread
Yet, no one wants stale bread. And moldy bread isn’t good for us. Of course, today there are options such as freezing bread and pulling it out when needed, but that wasn’t the case in Jesus’ day. Bread was baked daily. Bread is also an example of a communal dependance on one another. Also notice, we pray for “OUR bread,” not “MY bread.”
The baker depends on the farmer to grow the grain. Grain is hauled a great distance, even in Biblical times. Think of Joseph’s brothers taking grain from Egypt back to Canaan to feed their families. Before the baker can use the grain, a miller grounds it into flour. And the flour needs to be used soon or bugs begin to grow in it. If the baker in Jesus’ day was in a city, he’d have to have hire someone to bring him firewood for the oven.
Bread, something we take for granted, requires a whole village. Few people can do all it takes to prepare bread, and if we could do all it takes, from growing grain to grinding, to kneading and preparing fires for baking, we’d have no time to do anything else.
Luther’s interpretation of this petition
In his catechism, the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said that when we pray for our ‘daily bread,’ we are asking for everything necessary to have and enjoy our bread. Luther has a good point here. At the same time, Luther continues, we ask for protection from everything which would interfere with us enjoying our bread.
In his little book, A Simple Way to Pray, which Luther wrote for his barber, he includes a prayer based on this petition which thanks God for blessing our temporal and physical lives. Then Luther strangely continues, “Graciously grant us blessed peace. Protect us against war and disorder. Grant our dear emperor fortune and success against his enemies…”
War and bread prices
It may seem strange to pray for peace when praying for our daily bread, but perhaps, if you’ve been following world news, you’ll understand. Bread, even in ancient days, wasn’t something people took for granted. In Jesus’ day, much of the grain that fed Rome came from North Africa. War has a way of disturbing transportation arteries, making wheat and other food stuff more and more expensive.
We’re seeing this now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the world’s breadbaskets. A large percentage of the world’s grain and vegetable oil, especially in the poorer regions of African and the populated cities of Asia, come from Ukraine. If all a sudden the world lost 42% of its sunflower oil, 16% of its maize, 10% of its barley, and 9% of its wheat, which is the share of these products supplied by Ukraine in 2019, people will suffer.Grain is a commodity. Producers sell commodities where they can get the highest price. Therefore, a war thousands of miles away affects prices in our grocery stores.
So, after reorienting our lives toward God, we ask God to care for us. We don’t pray to be indulged with goods or supplied with rich foods. Instead, we ask, day by day, for what we need to get by so we might enjoy this good world in which God allows us to live. And, as this prayer reminds us, we don’t pray, “give me” but “give us.” We want everyone to have enough that their stomachs might be satisfied. This prayer not only orients us on God; it also focuses us on the needs of our neighbors.
I hope you see this petition in a new way. First, we’re not just asking for our own needs, but for everyone’s need. Second, we ask this prayer daily, for we continue to need to be reoriented toward a gracious God from whom all good things flow. Amen.
 Frederick Dale Bruner, The Christbook: Matthew 1-12 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 292-293.
 Bruner, 306-308. For a detailed discussion of the word used for bread, see James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 334-335.
 When I worked in the bakery (1976-81) bread only stayed on the shelves three days. After a week, it would often mold. Today, it appears that bakers are using better preservatives than were available then, as a loaf of bread often last two weeks in our house.
 Matthew 6:19-21.
 Matthew 14:12-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15.
 John 6:35. John 6:35-59 discusses the crowd’s desire for more bread, but Jesus had already fed them when they were hungry and now wants them to seek not just temporal benefits but spiritual benefits of believing in him.
 Luke 12:16-21.
 When I was working in the bakery in the late 1970s and early 80s, flash freezing was just coming into use. Unlike slow freezing, flash freezing keeps the dream from losing taste while frozen and when it thaws it is still fresh. I’m sure this is used even more today in the industry.
 William H. Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas, Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 76.
 Genesis 42.
 Martin Luther, “Larger Catechism,” The Book of Concord (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 430.
 Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray (Louisville, KY: W/JKP, 2000), 25.
 Figures from the BBC, “How Much Grain Has Been Shipped from Ukraine?”, November 3, 2022.